The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Opinion

Why astute cricket analysts cannot call the Kiwis the best in the business

Roar Guru
15th November, 2021
Advertisement
Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Guru
15th November, 2021
52
1028 Reads

There is a strong narrative in world cricket that New Zealand under Kane Williamson is the best all-around team.

The narrative is based on their record in the ICC tournaments over the past three years.

The Kiwis made it to the finals of the Cricket World Cup in 2019 and the T20 World Cup in 2021 and won the World Test Championship in 2021.

If someone took a high-level look at this record, they would say that the narrative is correct and the Kiwis are the best all-around team in the world.

However, anyone who has followed these tournaments closely may not agree completely. Let’s see why.

Disclaimer: What I say from here on will be one-sided as I play the Devil’s advocate. So, please take the contents in that spirit and add this perspective to your views.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

Advertisement

Cricket World Cup 2019
The tournament had a league phase where every team played the other teams once, then knock-out semi-finals and a final followed the league phase.

If a team had made it to the final playing such a tournament, it is fair to say that a losing finalist must be a great team. The Kiwis were not that team.

During the league phase, New Zealand did not beat any big team, i.e. India, Australia, England, and Pakistan.

They qualified to the semi-finals on the back of rain-affected games that eliminated Pakistan while giving the Kiwis a back-door entry into the semi-finals.

Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson

(Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

In the semi-finals, they made a slow and low score of 239 in 50 overs. The in-form Indian team should have walked that score in the second innings under the Manchester sun.

Advertisement

However, rain intervened and pushed the second innings to the reserve day. So, the Indian batsmen were forced to play the Kiwis’ seam bowlers on a cloudy morning in Manchester.

Anyone who has followed cricket in England would know that a cloudy morning session in England is tailor-made for seam bowling.

The Kiwi seam bowlers ran through the Indian top order and eliminated the league-phase topper from the World Cup.

I did feel bad for the Kiwis losing the final in the most controversial form. But they should realise that they were lucky to be in the final and take the rough with the smooth.

The ICC should adopt the page playoff system that IPL and many other cricket leagues use to determine the tournament’s winners. If they had used it in 2019, India or Australia would have made it to the finals.

Advertisement

It was a mockery to see England and New Zealand play the final at Lord’s while the top two teams after the league phase ended up catching an earlier flight.

World Test Championship (WTC) 2021
If there is a championship format more ill-conceived than the WTC, I would like to see it.

Cricket is one of the few sports where uncontrollable factors like weather, pitch conditions and toss play a massive part in deciding the winner.

So if you want to determine who is the best team in a specific game format, the result has to be based on a broader sample set taken from varied conditions.

However, that was not the case in the tournament format chosen by the ICC. New Zealand qualified to play the WTC final on the back of their wins at home.

On the contrary, the Indian team did the hard yards of beating Australia in Australia and taking Test matches off England and South Africa in their home conditions.

If all this was not enough, the Kiwis got to play the final in England, where conditions are as close to their home as it can get.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson lifts the trophy

(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Advertisement

To top it, they won the toss and inserted the Indian team to bat under cloudy conditions.

Despite this, the Indian team fought off the Kiwi bowlers and were placed at 3-147 with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane well set.

The third session in England is usually the best time to bat with the sun out, the ball being older, and the bowlers being tired.

When the Indian team had these things in their favour, bad light forced the game to stop, and the team lost their opportunity to bat 30-odd overs in good batting conditions.

Those 30 overs would have been a big advantage for the Indians in a low-scoring Test match.

However, this break allowed the Kiwis to regroup, come back under favourable bowling conditions the following day and get the Indian batsmen out for a low score.

I agree that the Kiwis are a good enough team to make the most of the luck that came by them.

However, an astute analyst of cricket should not play cheerleader and say the Kiwis are the world champion Test team.

Advertisement

T20 World Cup 2021
Aaron Finch, the Aussie captain who ended up winning this tournament, was large-hearted to accept that winning the toss and batting second was a huge advantage for his winning the tournament.

A quick look into the Kiwis’ wins in this tournament will tell us that they won their key matches batting second.

When they played first, even a lowly team like Scotland came close to beating them.

Colin Munro bats

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

I did not hear any of these statements from the Kiwi cheerleaders who have been singing paeans to Kane Williamson’s leadership qualities, their brainy tactics, their good-men image, their world-class bowlers and clutch batters.

All of these adjectives about the Kiwi team are true to a large extent. The Kiwis are a good team with fantastic players, and they are exceptionally well behaved as well.

None of these is reason enough for erudite commentators to raise the Kiwis on a pedestal and run a narrative that this team is the best in business. The final match of this tournament showed these commentators the mirror.

In conclusion, the Kiwis of the past few years are a great team, probably the best team to have come out of their country. They have world-beating players like Kane Williamson and Trent Boult.

However, they have had tremendous luck over the past few years that has elevated this team’s record to a stature that makes them look like a world-dominating team.

close